Taking Care of Business
AGONAsport’s Olympiacos blogger, Theo Bouras, talks about the club’s convincing 3-1 win over Burnley on Thursday as well as giving insight about Olympiacos’ upcoming SuperLeague season.
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Chris Wood has just equalized the score with a controversial penalty shot. Olympiacos players, personnel and fans are irate and the first leg tie against Burnley FC is becoming a disaster. The Reds have lost their cool and they end up losing 2-1 to the English side - except it really didn’t turn out that way.
The first leg for the UEFA Europa League Playoff round started off perfectly for Olympiacos. Fans filled the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium to see the Erythrolefki move one step closer to the group stage. Kostas Fortounis’ superb strike gave the Greek team a 1-0 lead and they should have probably gone up 2-0 if referee Slavko Vincic had given a penalty for Kevin Long’s infraction on Daniel Podence in the box. Instead, the Slovenian official gave the English side a weak penalty and continuously frustrated the Greek side with his head-scratching decisions.
Burnley might have already started their season and is currently more match fit, but make no mistake, they could not keep up with Olympiacos. They continuously clutched and grabbed the Reds and should have had many of their players booked with yellow cards much earlier. Pedro Martins deserves a lot of credit because his team is showing rhythm and already seems much more united than last year’s squad. Martins was also instrumental in calming down his side at the halftime when they were all frustrated.
The team, led by captain Fortounis, came out blazing in the second half and scored two goals in the first 15 minutes. They most likely feel like they could have had more as Podence and Miguel Angel Guerrero both missed great opportunities.
Aside from the obvious jubilation with the 3-1 victory, the team’s supporters can feel excited with this team’s play. The team has scored at least three goals in all three of its official games this season. Mady Camara and Andreas Bouchalakis are making it extremely difficult for Martins to remove them from the Starting XI and the defence that was supposed to be a weakness is looking like a real team strength, especially with the play of Jagos Vukovic who has been a real leader for the backline.
The 3-1 score doesn’t have Olympiacos completely out of the woods, as a 2-0 win for the English side at Turf Moor this Thursday would end the Greeks’ European campaign. The Erythrolefki shouldn’t worry though, as even this early in their campaign, they are showing that they are a much better side - even if Burnley’s team value is estimated to be double of that of the Piraeus squad.
Pedro Martins’ men don’t have too much time to celebrate as their Greek Superleague obligations will start this weekend as they host Levadiakos at Karaiskakis Stadium. Karim Ansarifard, Guilherme dos Santos Torres, Bibras Natkho, and Yassine Meriah will probably see some action on the pitch as Martins wants to begin incorporating everyone in the squad.
The 44-time Greek Champions enter the 2018-19 campaign as last year’s third place team. They haven’t lost back-to-back Greek Championships since 1994-95 and 1995-96 and one trophy-less year feels like an eternity in Piraeus. This season fixes to be a real three-horse race; AEK are the defending champions and although they haven’t had any massive additions, they have kept their core. On the other hand, PAOK has made some key signings while also keeping their core from last year. Both started off their campaigns with victories on Saturday.
The administration isn’t worried about what other teams have done though. When you are Olympiacos, you are the team that dictates the pace. Team owner Evangelos Marinakis promised radical changes and has delivered. New faces on the pitch and new personnel on the bench have arrived but the goal remains the same; a first place finish and number 45 in the trophy case.
This season will be long and challenging but the advantage Olympiacos has over teams like AEK and PAOK is that the Reds are used to a heavy schedule with European matches mid-week and League clashes over the weekend. Marinakis’ team has 9 home games in the first round, and if they can build a healthy lead in the standings by Christmas time, there may be no looking back. Because as the famous Greek saying goes, Piraeus is always nice in May when Olympiacos brings home a trophy.